Tracking the Dutch Reformed Church's phased renunciation of apartheid is a tortuous process in decoding semantics. Unlike other Christian churches in South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church has refused to declare apartheid a heresy.

It makes a distinction between racism and apartheid: Racism, it says, is a sin. But ``Church and Society,'' the church's 1986 treatise scripted by church leader Johan Heyns, says of apartheid:

``The conviction has gradually grown that a forced separation and division of peoples cannot be considered a biblical imperative. The attempt to justify such an injunction as derived from the Bible must be recognized as an error and rejected.''

At a meeting of the white Dutch Reformed Church and its black and mixed-race counterparts last March, Mr. Heyns is reported to have wept in confessing the error of apartheid.

But his delegation declined to endorse a statement by the black church leaders condemning ``apartheid in all its forms a sin and irreconcilable with the Gospel.''

In a unilateral statement, drafted by Heyns, the white delegation said: ``We confess with humiliation and sorrow the participation of our church in the introduction and legitimation of the ideology of apartheid and the subsequent suffering of people.''

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.